Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

May 7, 2014

Collaboration, education needed to promote state economy

TRAVERSE CITY — Doug Rothwell usually starts with this message when he speaks to groups of Michigan business leaders: Work together.

That’s not a direction northwest Michigan business leaders need to hear. Rothwell instead commended the region for working together to promote economic growth.

“I think this is a model region for the degree of collaboration and cooperation,” he said.

Doug Rothwell is CEO and president of Business Leaders for Michigan, a group that researches the state economy and puts together a business strategy guide called the Michigan Turnaround Plan. He presented the 2014 Michigan Turnaround Plan to a room of local business leaders on April 30 and outlined steps state leaders should take to become among the top 10 in new jobs, personal income and population growth.

The plan calls for a focus on competition, investment and growth.

Rothwell said Michigan is in the investment stage of the process. He wants to see improvements in the state infrastructure system and more access to education from preschool, to college, to workforce development.

Michelle Russell, of Russell Coaching & Consulting in Frankfort, said connecting the local schools and business community will help.

“What else do we need to be doing for our kids to get them ready to be productive members of our community, and want to stay in our community?” Russell said.

The plan also calls for investing in the state’s assets, such as engineering talent, medical expertise and natural resources.

The assets in northern Michigan are a little different, Russell said. The area has rich natural resources and a community that welcomes new ideas.

“There’s a tremendous amount of energy and there’s a tremendous sense of community,” she said. “People are willing to try things.”

The Michigan Turnaround Plan focuses on urban areas, but Rothwell suggested rural economies focus on agriculture and exporting products to new markets, like sending cherries to China.

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